Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Two Kittens and an Oven Door Met a Wandering Aramean

“No rest for the weary!” Certainly not around Pesach time, for many of us. Certainly not for your inveterate correspondent. I had completed my last article describing the finding of abandoned kittens and the smashing of an oven door, and I was looking for a short respite after the holiday while we prepared ourselves for the wrecking crew coming to demolish our old kitchen and preparing for the installation of a new one. Suddenly there was a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping on my e-mail inbox door. Could it be Edgar Allen Poe’s raven? No, it was only XXX, one of my long-suffering readers, who wanted, needed to know, what happened to our oven door? Never mind that we were struggling to keep two week-old kittens alive. Never mind that I had promised in writing to continue my saga ASAP. My old friend could not wait an instant longer to find out the denouement. Perhaps she too had been without an oven at some critical juncture of her life and over-empathized with our plight. Perhaps she was being dragged along, kicking and screaming, by Idle Curiosity? Whatever the reason for her interest, I felt her pain and resolved to make every effort to continue the saga. So, in the midst of the pounding and the smashing, the plumbing and the wiring, the dust settling and the pigeons flapping in and out the open windows, Yom Hashoa, Yom Hazicharon, and Yom Haatzmaut coming and going, I began – with multiple interruptions and serious delays – the continuation of my saga. If nothing else, I was determined to silence the tapping, the gentle rapping on my inbox door.
We might begin with a question: what on earth does one feed a week old kitten who has no mother? Natania’s solution was to dilute regular milk, warm it up, and try to feed it with the eye-dropper which we fortunately have. OK for the short run; kittens cannot thrive on human milk, but we were hoping to keep our charges alive until the next morning, Friday, when our local veterinarian, Dr. Donny would have office hours. Natania, the good scout that she is, kept getting up every few hours whenever these wretched creatures would wake up and begin emitting their pitiful bleats of hunger. At 8:30 AM, Barbara was on the phone with the service company, who assured her that our oven door had indeed arrived and it might be ready for pick-up later that morning. By 9AM, I was at work starting to prepare our Shabbat meals. All the dishes had to be stove-top preparable, but I could certainly handle that. At 10AM, more or less, Barbara and Natania were on their way to the vet’s office in Kikar Yahalom, the old shopping center.
The kittens were pronounced basically healthy by the vet, and Barbara went off to the several pet supply stores in our community in search of powdered kitten formula. Not surprisingly, none was to be had, and my wife settled for infant formula from the supermarket – better than cow’s milk for our purpose. Before she left the vet’s office, she had asked him if by chance he knew anybody in town who had a nursing mother cat who might be willing to take on two more charges. Donny said he did not, and that seemed to be the end of the matter. We were now the official life support system for two tiny orphaned felines; just what we needed. Mimi, our resident feline, a solitary creature by habit, would not be happy. So my wife and daughter and the two unnamed specimens returned home. I was now turning out dishes left and right, hoping to get our Shabbat cooking done as early as possible. (I should also mention that the day in question was the first day of Daylight Savings Time in The Land, so we had plenty of time until the official candle lighting time.)
And then, the phone rang. It was Doctor Donny. Somebody had just come into his office with a nursing female cat with nobody to nurse. Something or somebody had attacked her and killed her kittens. He had just anesthetized her and stitched her up. Was it possible? Could there be a shidduch in the making!!!!!!!!!!! The cat’s owner agreed to take the nursing kittens on two conditions: one) they would do their best to protect them from harm, but he could offer no guarantees as to their safety; two) when they were properly weaned, we would agree to take them back. His family had another pregnant female and enough was enough. We, of course, were desperate; a life raft is a life raft. We weren’t likely to get a better offer. Natania and I hightailed it back to Kikar Yahalom with kittens in basket and arrived just as Asher’s large black cat was coming out of the anesthesia. We placed the two kittens in the box with the mother cat and offered a silent prayer. The black kitten, who had been harder to feed with the eye dropper, sized up the situation and immediately attached his mouth to Mrs. Cat’s nipple and began to feed. The white kitten, the one who had been more willing to take sustenance from the eye dropper, seemed to be clueless. He/she kept climbing over the big cat’s back going who-knows-where, no matter how many times the vet returned him to the proper place. The mother cat began to wake up and lifted her head to see what was going on. What was percolating in her mind? Did she think these two were her original kittens? Cats apparently recognize their own offspring by smell. Had these two been climbing over her long enough to absorb the mother’s odor? Or was Mrs. Cat simply too weak to object? Perhaps she was that rare philosophically inclined specimen who saw these new kittens as a cosmic reward for her travails? It is unlikely that we will ever know the truth; and I am at peace with my uncertainty. We exchanged contact information with Asher, and Natania and I bee-lined it out of there, still offering silent prayers that this would work. My daughter called them before Shabbat started; mommy cat was grooming her foster children – a good sign. Their children were fighting over what to name these new arrivals – a very good sign as far as we were concerned. We had this vision of a flock of kids crying out, “Mommy, mommy, can we keep Lancelot and Guinevere?” However, I just heard from Asher and his wife: the kittens are doing fine and will be ready for separation from foster mommy in a few weeks. Oh, and their other cat just gave birth to five, count ‘em, five kittens of her own. So it seems that we will be stuck with them. Get ready, Mimi, for some company.
There is one other piece of information which I should mention. It was raining that morning in Ma’ale Adumim, something it doesn’t often do that close to Pesach, so all of us were dodging rain drops whenever we left our apartment. We got back from the vet and shortly thereafter the phone rang. Sherut Gur. “Your oven door is ready.” (Remember the oven door????!!!!!) I looked at the clock and reckoned that I could just about make it there before they closed at 1PM, but, as I said, it was raining, and who wants to shlep an oven door in the rain? Plus how much adventure can one person handle in a day? “Can I come in Sunday morning?” “Of course.” That would certainly give Barbara enough time to bake her renowned Pesach chocolate cakes, the kind that all of you want a slice of – whether you know it or not. More time for me to keep cooking for Shabbat.
We were planning a low-key Shabbat, one without company and without the usual leftovers – a good part of our normal weekly menus; but in the end we decided to invite one of Barbara’s friends to join us. She mentioned how grateful she was; if she needed to prepare her own meals, there would have been no way she would have had time to clean her apartment for Pesach. I was suddenly reminded of our holidays back in Teaneck. One family with whom we were good friends, had spent Pesach at a hotel for many years, courtesy of her parents. As a token of gratitude, our friends would always invite a number of their friends for the meals the Shabbat before Pesach, so that these families, all of whom would be at home for the holiday, would have an easier time getting ready. I have fond memories of those meals with lots of happy, grateful people around the table, which custom, sadly, has now come to an end. The wife’s mother died this past year; the father is now living with them, and Pesach for the family will now be in Teaneck. The other families will have to fend for themselves before the holiday. Another fond Exilic memory up in smoke, just like the bread in Jeff’s huge barbecue grill to which everyone could come and burn their hametz. Jeff and June are now in Jerusalem, and it’s too far these days to their apartment off Rehov Jabotinsky to join them for Jeff’s version of Texas toast.
Sunday morning, I was up and out early, in hot pursuit of an oven door, although I did make a stop first at an out-of-the-way wine store which had been advertising a pre-Pesach sale on Israeli ‘boutique’ wine, a bargain at four bottles for 180 shekels. However, whatever small amount of money I saved buying wine, I more than made up for ransoming our oven door. Somehow, the ‘labor charge’ was five hundred shekels, meaning the total cost of rectifying my clumsiness was over a thousand shekels. At least they bubble-wrapped my door for me before sending me on my way, poorer but perhaps wiser. I needn’t tell you that I let Barbara and Natania put the door back on its hinges. Barbara was now ready to start baking her cakes and I could lick the chocolate in the bowl and relax.
I have always wondered what it would be like to spend Pesach at a hotel, meaning you can arrive early and loll around while the hotel staff busies itself with all the necessary preparations. You would certainly have time, if you were so inclined, to review the Hagaddah and some of the commentaries on it, and you would have the added bonus of arriving at the Seder table relaxed and refreshed. The down side, of course, is that you might have to make do with someone else idea of a Seder, which in a hotel, can be something of a problem. And it might set you back a month’s salary for this luxury. But now I think I have an idea of what it would be like.
This year we got lucky. Not only were we invited to the Seder with our friends Ron and Esther (for the third year in a row), but we were invited out to other friends for lunch as well. So all our meals were covered, and we had little left to do. (As you all are aware, because we live in The Land, there is only one day of the holiday at the beginning and one at the end; we get time off for good behavior.) I had only two chores to do on Monday, make some charoset for Tina to take back to Tel Aviv with her and then go through the ritual of burning the remaining chametz. Absent Jeff’s barbecue pit, I was resigned to going down to the street and trying by myself to burn what that I had kept in reserve. But there was Eliezer, an elderly Sephardic man who lives in apartment #4 below us, to the rescue. He had made his own campfire next to the garbage dump and was making Moroccan toast. I had just kept two pitas for my offering; he seemed to have an entire bakery to dispose of. Or else he had been saving up bread to burn since Purim. Why do things half way? I dropped my piddling pitas onto his fire, thanked him, and returned to my kitchen. I took out my Pesach food processor, whose main raison-d’etre is pulverizing the ingredients for our Ashkenazic charoset: apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and sweet wine. I usually make about a quart of the stuff. Again, why do things half way? Besides, it’s yummy.
That task accomplished, I had the rest of the day to relax, just as I would have at a hotel, and prepare myself for Ron’s Seder. I had been going through the Haggadah little by little for several weeks, and now I would have time to review everything one more time. There would be no pool to sit by and no deck chairs to sit on, but I could at least sit on my own balcony\\on my own folding chair and admire the view.
I had hoped that ‘my’ Haggadah would be finally be available (the English language version of Rav Shlomo Aviner’s commentary, translated by my buddy, R. Mordechai Tzion, which lists yours truly as the editor) but it’s still not out after a year and a half delay. It still might be ready before the Jerusalem Light Rail project – my benchmark of comparison – which now has an official start date in April 2011. I am not holding my breath on either account.
As a consolation prize, I had bought myself a Haggada with a commentary compiled from the study notes of the great Torah teacher, Nechama Leibowitz, whose textual approach was to point something out which needed clarification,, offer her students suggestions, and make them come up with their own solutions to the difficulties. What a novel idea! What got me going was something that has always bothered me, and my discovery that I was in good company. In the Haggadah, there is a reference to a passage in The Torah in which it says that when the Jewish people were to enter The Land, they were to offer their first fruits as a sacrifice and recite a paragraph which begins: “Arami oved avi.”
The ‘official’ translation of these three enigmatic words is, according to Rashi, the medieval commentator who seems to be the be-all and the end-all for many people for what things in The Torah or The Talmud mean, “The Aramean (that is, Lavan) sought to destroy my father.” The text continues, “and he (my father??!!) went down to Egypt and sojourned there; and he became there a nation…..” This interpreation always seemed to me to lack a critical element of coherence, but I have never been able to express my skepticism as well and with as much authority as the fifteenth century commentator, known by his nom de plume, Akeidat Yitzchak, “All of my life I was puzzled by this verse….For in truth, according to the simple meaning of the text, Lavan did not seek to destroy Yaakov…..And even if we assume that he intended to harm him, what is Lavan’s relevance to ‘And he went down to Egypt’? (Go get ‘em, A.Y.!)
Even earlier, Shmuel ben Meier, the Rashbam, the son of Rashi’s daughter, who seemed to delight in disagreeing textually with his grandfather, interpreted these three words to mean that the patriarch Avraham was a wandering Aramean – wandering and exiled from the land of Aram. One of the earliest commentators and Biblical grammarians, known to us as ‘the son of Ezra’ gave a succinct explanation why you would have to torture the syntax of these words to make it mean what Rashi says it does, adding “But it is more logical that the Arami is Yaakov, and the verse is saying that when my father was in Aram, he was poor.” (Ibn Ezra, he’s our man; if he can’t do it, no one can!!!)
Of course, I brought this issue up at the Seder, and I mention this only to preempt the skeptics who would wrongly assume that we “cheated,” skipped something, rushed through everything, in order to get done at the incredibly early hour of about 11:30. I’ve noticed an interesting activity, one which has probably been going on for longer than I’ve been alive. It’s called the ‘When did you finish?’ game; that is to say, how long did your Seder drag on until? (perhaps akin to ‘How much water did you get in your basement after the recent downpour,’ or ‘How long was your power out for?’) We know that it is a mitzvah to retell the exodus from Egypt, but I feel confident that nobody gets any ‘points’ for time wasted in the effort. We’ve all heard about or been part of Pesach horror stories when the Seder were very late in starting because the assorted teenagers present insisted on bickering on and on about who wouldn’t be caught dead sitting next to whom; and then some of the guests waltzed in an hour late; or it was the children were quarreling over whose turn it was to recite the ‘divrei Torah’ which they had spent the entire month before Pesach copying off the chalk board in their yeshivah, so that, in effect, they were running the Seders with their parents functioning as referees; or the relative who has to be invited, even though he doesn’t want to be there, whose role it is to ask the same annoying questions year after year, ignoring the fact that someone patiently has given him the same answer for the last ten years – because he’s only asking the questions to annoy you PLUS prove that the wicked son is not just as construct, but is alive and well. These are just some of the many sure fire recipes for wasting time and diminishing the joy of those assembled.
Ron and Esther are very good at avoiding these and other pitfalls. We could officially start the Seder a little after 8PM; we, in fact, started exactly at 8:15 because all of us were there on time. Ron and Esther’s daughters and a friend had made place cards for our assigned seating, so we were sitting where we were supposed to within one minute. All the stuff we needed to begin was ready ahead of time. We went around the table, each person reading a paragraph in Hebrew or English, depending on their linguistic capabilities. If anybody had a question or something brilliant to say, there was time for that. We didn’t rush, but we didn’t dawdle. We ate a leisurely meal, finished the rest of the Hagaddah, and, lo and behold, everyone at the table was still awake at the end. That’s an accomplishment worth trumpeting!
We were able to get a good night’s sleep, and I showed up the next morning at our beit Knesset, Musar Avicha, no later than a lot of other guys. As I mentioned before, we were invited out for lunch as well where we continued overeating. I remember quite clearly my train of thought as we were walking on that beautiful afternoon back to our apartment after the meal. I’M FREE! I DON’T HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN! I DON’T HAVE TO GO BACK TO MITZRAYIM FOR A SECOND SEDER!
The purpose of the Seder is to enable one somehow, some way, to recreate for oneself the experience of the Jewish people leaving Egypt. We start the Seder by holding a piece of Lehem Oni, poor man’s bread, a symbol of our affliction, and we end it by singing about our fondest dream, a rebuilt Jerusalem. Having symbolically escaped from Egypt the first night and being physically a bus ride away from Jerusalem – albeit in an ‘un-rebuilt’ state – every day of the year, why would I want to go back and repeat the harrowing experience a second time the following night? Would you want to repeat the fourth grade after you’ve finished college?
The first part of Pesach was over, but there was still something tapping, gently rapping on the cortex of my brain which I could hear even over the banging and the clanging in our kitchen, until I suddenly realized why it wouldn’t go away. It was the business of the differing interpretations of Arami oved avi. It occurred to me that, taken together, the ‘someone’s out to get us’ part and the ‘wandering Aramean’ motif, they sort of sum up much of Jewish history. Whether or not Lavan was actually seeking to destroy us, a lot of other folks have been, for real, for a very long time, up to and including the present day. And collectively we have certainly been wandering, dispersed, powerless, throughout much of our history. What is so distressing today is that even though, with G-d’s help, the historic process of our physical re-unification is going on before our very eyes, we are in many ways acting as if we were still wandering in the desert, scattered, weak, and confused. Maybe that’s why I prefer the second interpretation, because perhaps we need to focus our attention on ending the Exile – not only physically, but in the ways we think and act. And so, everyone, all together so everyone can hear, “I AM NOT, WE ARE NOT, A WANDERING ARAMEAN. And let us say Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Saga of the Oven Door and Other Matters

If I were to start off by writing that the week before Pesach we were cleaning our kitchen, you would read that information and most likely return to what you had been doing before, even if that ‘something’ was as exciting and profitable as a game of free cell on your computer. If I were to add that we were trying to get our house ready for Pesach by Thursday night (Pesach starting the following Monday evening), you might admire our enterprise, but I certainly wouldn’t be getting your full attention. But when I tell you the story about our oven door, now you are going to have to listen up.
We had no choice but to buy a new wall oven when we bought this apartment. The previous owners left us a stove top on its last legs but took their wall oven with them. So we went back to Lior’s, our local appliance place and purchased a self-cleaning Electrolux (the same company that manufactures the vacuum cleaners), ovens with this wonderful feature being a fairly rare commodity in this country. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the years koshering ovens for Pesach, and a fair amount of that time has been wrestling with the mechanisms that allow you to take the door off and put it back on. Every oven door I’ve ever seen has a double pane of glass serving as a window; and you can never get inside the glass to clean it. You can make the oven door acceptable for Pesach use, but you can never get it so the glass is clear as it was when you bought it, and that’s annoying. But our Electrolux – there is a way to open it up to clean it inside, and lo and behold, there are actually, count ‘em, three panes of glass. There I was, holding the door upright on the dining room table, spraying 409 and wiping it down with paper towels; and then I lost my grip, and the door tipped back onto the table. Not a big drop, but enough to chip off a small piece from one side of the outside pane of glass, and, even worse, to chip off a small piece of the plastic which holds the glass in place from the other side of the door. Oyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
I had already used what the manufacturer calls the pyrolytic setting, so the oven was theoretically kosher for Pesach, but kind of useless without a door. All this took place on Wednesday afternoon. Barbara called Lior’s, and they gave her the phone number for the service company, Sherut Gur in Jerusalem. Phoned them. Bring it in the next day; they’re right near the Shuk.
I had visions of getting on the bus Thursday morning holding the oven door by its handle. Here in The Land, people get on buses with all manner of items. (Barbara recently got into a conversation with a woman at a bus stop who let my wife know that she had a live fish in her shopping cart, and not to get scared if the cart started to jump.) But Barbara sort of spoiled my fun by wrapping the door in newspaper and putting it into our red Century 21 bag from The States. We got onto the bus to Jerusalem Thursday morning with our carefully camouflaged oven door. Natania was with us because she needed to see our chiropractor. Being out of the army, she had gotten back onto our health plan, seen our family doctor, and convinced him to give her a referral for chiropractic care. Now she was on her way to the Maccabi natural health center to see the gatekeeper and convince him or her to authorize the same sixteen visits per year that Barbara and I get at the reduced price of 80 shekels (about $25 at today’s exchange rate) a visit. This was going to work out just fine because everything we needed to do was within walking distance of each other. We started out on Rehov Rashi, a street we will never forget because that’s where the army recruitment office is, where Natania began her army career two years and two months ago. As promised, Sherut Gur is very close to the shuk and we found it with no trouble.
How busy do you think an appliance repair center in the center of Jerusalem would be the week before Pesach? Uh, yes. Very busy. When we walked in, the phones were ringing off the hook, much too often for the young women sitting behind the desks to keep up with. There was one woman ahead of us in the repair center. She had just, I mean just, bought a new stove and it had been delivered with the wrong pieces. I don’t even know what you call them in English: the round cast iron pieces that sit on top of the burners. But they’re called kippot in Hebrew; the same word for what guys wear on their heads (although the head gear is somewhat lighter). She was expecting to feed twenty some odd people for the seder in exactly three and a half days and was remarkably calm under the circumstances. Rafi the technician was able to locate the right ones and send her on her way with them. There was another guy who came in while we were waiting. He had a small metal rack, probably for a portable oven, also the wrong size. Rafi found one that fit better; it cost 125 shekels. Barbara and I began to get nervous. If this puny rack cost 125 shekels, how many zillions of shekels would a new oven door set us back?
Our turn. We unwrapped our door and showed it to Rafi. I assume that he had done his time in the Israeli army, and after that experience it would take a lot to upset his equilibrium – even the week before Pesach. On the phone to the supply center in Tel Aviv. Fortunately for us, we had remembered to bring our original sales receipt. We knew that dropping a door would not be covered under the warranty, but the receipt did have the model number. Fortunately they had the part in stock, and it would arrive as early as that afternoon. He gave us an estimate that was quite reasonable, although he didn’t mention that labor was extra – much extra.
We had sent Natania ahead to the health clinic to be examined by the gatekeeper and approved for the requisite sixteen visits. It turned out that our chiropractor, Dr. Breen was available that very moment, so she got an immediate appointment to begin the process of returning the vertebrae in her neck to their proper positions. And then off to the shuk for round six of our pre-Pesach shopping. Except we did stop off for lunch first because you never go food shopping on an empty stomach. Unless you want to wind up bringing home two kilo of ochre and five of fava beans.
I have only the dimmest memories of the Machane Yehuda shuk from my first visit to The Land in 1980. In fact, the only thing I remember was photographing a ritual slaughterer plying his trade on a production line of chickens – an image which I have exhibited many times since. Today mercifully, the guys killing the chickens are miles away from the people buying and selling them. The shuk today is much bigger and a sense of up-scaleness (if that’s a word) has begun to creep in around the corners – which is most interesting because the rest of the Rehov Jaffa area has been suffering from the ongoing, poorly planned construction of the Light Rail, still a year away from completion. The most conspicuous example of this trendiness in the shuk is the presence of an Aroma coffee bar on the main drag. But there are a number of smaller, less conspicuous places cropping up like mushrooms on a New Jersey lawn after a week of rain: a few fancy clothing stores, a brightly lit concession which sells only the highest quality olive oil, a cooperative gallery displaying the work of local craftsmen. In fact, the revival of the shuk was the subject of an article in the Jerusalem Post recently which described a number of small restaurants that have opened up in or around the shuk. What stopped me in my tracks was a mention of an Indian restaurant. Indian food!!!!!!!!!!!! As the only other kosher restaurant of its type in the area is a mediocre but more expensive meat restaurant in one of the hotels, you can imagine my glee at reading this wonderful news. But where was it? I had never come across it, and I do tend to get around in Mahane Yehuda. One day a few weeks ago when I was in the area, I made it a point to explore systematically all the back alleys of the shuk in search of this hidden treasure, stumbling onto it at last on one of the side streets. At least I now knew where it was, so it was a foregone conclusion that on this afternoon before Pesach we would head over there for lunch.
There are small restaurants, and then there are tiny restaurants. This vegetarian Indian restaurant can comfortably seat about a dozen people, making it smaller than the average falafel joint on King George – with a menu about as extensive. In fact, they don’t hand you a printed affair; they point to what’s written on a big blackboard on the wall. What it comes down to is that you can order a medium size plate, a big plate, a bigger plate, or a really big plate. But it’s all the same food: thin Indian bread, rice, potatoes in a sauce, lentils, a split pea type soup, a yogurt dish, and one or two other items that I cannot identify – just more of it or less of it. You can also order some side dishes as well as dessert and chai tea, served in a glass meant for cold drinks so you have the option of holding onto the glass and removing your finger prints, if you so desire. It’s just that the food is so sublime that it would be easy to shed tears of joy; not over your plate, though, it would be a pity to water down what you’re eating. In these intimate surroundings, it’s easy to get into a conversation with the woman who runs the place, a Jew who was raised in India, who came to and left Israel several times, although she thinks this time she will stay put.
Lunch being over, I suggested that Barbara and Natania head home to continue cleaning, and I would remain at the shuk to do the shopping. So the two of them headed in one direction to do one errand and then take the bus back to our island of serenity, Maale Adumim. I wandered around, bought what I needed, got on a different bus and arrived back at to our apartment thirty seconds after them. Good plan, bad execution.
Several hours later, Barbara and I were back on the bus heading to the Jerusalem Theater for another FREE concert(at least for us; I’m sure some of the audience paid full price for their tickets. And they call us freiers!); this time the forces at hand, Leon Botstein and the Jerusalem Symphony in an all Kurt Weill program: a concert suite from The Threepenny Opera, his Second Symphony, and the rarely performed but quite marvelous ‘Seven Deadly Sins,’ for orchestra, one female and four male vocalists – one of those pieces that remain underperformed because of their eccentric use of musical forces. This was another example of Botstein’s programming skills, a concert devoted to the music that Weill wrote, generally in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht, before he came to America. This is a subject which particularly fascinates me: artists who fled the Nazis because they were Jewish and/or considered avant-garde, i.e.; ‘decadent,’ and their subsequent careers in America, something completely outside the scope of these articles. I should mention, however, while I have my cultural news reporter hat on, that there was a whole new series of art work on display in the lobbies, most of it not so ipsy-pipsy, as my late father might have said.
One seemingly innocent thing happened on the way to the theater, the full significance of which we only grasped later. It was a phone call from Natania. “Mommy, where is Mimi’s heating pad?” “In the closet in the middle room.” “Do you need it for yourself or for the cat?” “It’s not for me. And where’s the eye-dropper?” “Under the bathroom sink, in the right hand drawer. Why do you need an eye-dropper?” “I’ll tell you when you get home.” We should have figured something was up, as these were not the typical questions a grown child asks her parents, but we were too busy trying to make our bus connections and then too engrossed in the concert to consider. As I said, we should have know better.
The concert was over. Our friends David and Bernice had also obtained tickets, but he was much too busy with work to attend. Therefore, we were left to our own devices to get home, meaning we had to wait for a bus to arrive to take us to a second bus which would get us back to Ma’ale Adumim, by which point I was more than ready for beddy-bye. However, there was Natania, waiting for our arrival. “I have some good news and some bad news. Actually, I have some bad news and some more bad news.” “OK?” “The bad news is that I broke a bottle of wine. The worse news is that, we’re down a bottle of wine and we’re up to kitties.” “What?” Natania pointed to Mimi’s bed, which our old cat rarely uses as our bed is more comfortable. There in the bed, with the heating pad on, were two very small felines, upon inspection less than a week old – their eyes were not open yet and they could not walk. As our daughter explained it, on her way to the mall earlier in the evening, she had seen two local kids carrying this kittens, an unusual activity in and of itself. When Natania returned home, she found these two pathetic little critters abandoned in front of our building.
I know that there are billions of people on the planet who would have gone about their business, not giving the matter any thought. But Natania was raised in her mother’s home; she would be as likely to head into the wadi with a can of gasoline and start a forest fire as she would leave these kittens to die of exposure and starvation. Make no mistake about it, those kittens would have been dead within a few hours. That doesn’t mean that Barbara and I were thrilled and delighted to see these newcomers (Mimi had already come down, sniffed at them, and, determining that they were no threat to her hegemony, walked away). Barbara’s response was, “Natania, the kittens are yours. You are going to have to get up and feed them.” I took another tack, inquiring before I headed upstairs to bed, “Natania, which bottle of wine did you break?”
Yes, this saga will be continued. What did you think?